O’Brien might know who QB is, but he’s still not saying

Bill O’Brien seems to be getting tired of answering questions about his quarterback situation, and he threw a new wrinkle into the matter Thursday.

O’Brien had said he would name a starter by the end of the week, but that timetable not only apparently has changed, now the coach is hinting at not naming one at all.

“It might not come until next week,” O’Brien said on a conference call. “You know, it might come on the first play of the game on offense against Syracuse.”

Freshman Christian Hackenberg and sophomore Tyler Ferguson are competing for the job and are in a close competition. Reading between the lines, one could discern that O’Brien already knows who will start at quarterback but just isn’t ready to announce it publicly.

That suggestion comes from this comment he made, then later repeated, Thursday:

“The only thing I care about is if the football team understands the direction that we are headed, and I believe the football team understands where we’re at right now.”

The fact that O’Brien mentioned the players know which direction the team is headed could be construed as them already knowing who will start at quarterback. The team sees what’s going on every day in practice, so it’s possible – if not probable – they know who’s the top guy.

Then again, it could just be the coach deflecting the question and being coy.

O’Brien has said at every step that Hackenberg and Ferguson are both good, young quarterbacks, and that both will play this season. He’s faced so many questions about them that his patience appears to be wearing thin.

“It is my job to run the football team, and I am always going to do what is best for the football team,” he said. “As long as I am the head football coach here, I will always do what is best for our program. That has nothing to do with indecisiveness or doing this or doing that.”

SUBHD: Cuse coach mum

Whether O’Brien actually has made up his mind already is unclear, just as it’s unclear who Penn State’s opponent will start at quarterback. Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said this week he has no intention of naming a starter until game day.

“We don’t have to play until the 31st,” Shafer said. “So the final decision won’t truly be made until we step on that field.”

The Orange are deciding between redshirt sophomore Terrel Hunt and Oklahoma transfer Drew Allen.

“I think in this day and age of college football, you have to be ready for everything,” O’Brien said of not knowing Syracuse’s quarterback. “Whether it’s a pro-style attack or a shotgun-run attack, whatever it is, we do it all offensively here at Penn State. We give our defense exposure to a lot of different schemes.”

SUBHD: Kline update

Ben Kline could turn out to be a big factor this season because of the limited depth at linebacker, so his health has been a constant focus during the preseason. Kline has been nursing a shoulder injury that has limited his contact.

O’Brien said Kline has been practicing the past few days, plus he praised the young man for having a 4.0 GPA and for being “a Penn State guy.”

“He’s a fantastic kid and a tough, good leader on our team,” O’Brien said. “He’s a big special teams player, and he’ll play some linebacker for us. He’s been out there.”


The opener will be at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Giants and Jets, and O’Brien said he likes having his team play in NFL stadiums on occasion.

“I’ve talked about what playing at MetLife Stadium means for our program and about playing at other NFL venues down the road,” O’Brien said. “I think it’s really good for our program, it’s good for our players.”

SUBHD: Freshmen impact

O’Brien rattled off the names of several true freshmen he expects to play this season, including: TE Adam Breneman, OT Andrew Nelson, WR Richy Anderson and RB Von Walker.